Amidst the dusty swirl of reaction and commentary that has been kicked up by a new film about Ted Haggard is this comment by one pastor from his former church: "The wound will not always be with us. The wound will not always define us."
It's understandable that the pastor would say this. No church wants to be remembered because its nationally known pastor had homosexual trysts with male prostitutes and allegedly with at least one member of the congregation. We do not imagine the church dedicating a building to Haggard, or putting up a plaque that says, "To Pastor Ted — his very life embodied everything this church stands for."
But maybe it should. Maybe it should think of a way to keep that wound fresh for coming generations. Instead of trying to "move on," as we are so wont to do in our culture, maybe New Life Church should proudly let this incident define it.
There are many subtleties to the word define, but two seem pertinent: "To delineate the outline or form of," as in "the rolling green hills were defined against the deep blue sky." And this: "To give form or meaning to," as in "Jim's life was defined by action."
And what defines human existence more than death? Ernst Becker, in his classic, The Denial of Death, wrote: "The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity — designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man." The late Richard John Neuhaus put it in a distinctly Christian way in As I Lay Dying: "We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born towards death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The ...1